The United States opened up a one-point lead over Europe at the Ryder Cup here Saturday as the opening fourballs were finally completed after the rain-affected opening day.
World number one Tiger Woods and partner Steve Stricker fired the defending champions into a 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 lead at Celtic Manor after wrapping up a two-up victory over English duo Ian Poulter and RossFisher.
It was a psychological blow for US captain Corey Pavin’s team as they seek to score the first American victory on foreign soil since 1993.
Not since 1999 has a team come back from losing the opening session to win the coveted trophy.
“The team got off to a good start overall,” Stricker said. “The atmosphere here is unbelievable – pro-Europe of course but great to be a part of it.”
Earlier, Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood and Germany’s Martin Kaymer had put Europe’s first point on the board with a three and two victory over world number two Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.
“It’s always nice to get the first point on the board. It’s good to be here and it makes all the rehab worth it,” said Westwood, whose participation had been in doubt after he suffered a calf injury in August.
Westwood also paid tribute to rookie Kaymer, who contributed important birdies on the ninth and 11th on Friday to resist a charge by Mickelson.
“I get on really well with Martin. He is a fantastic player and he has got a lot of bottle,” Westwood said. “When he was needed in the middle of the round he holed some good putts and made some good birdies.”
There was more for Europe to cheer about in the second fourball, where Northern Irish duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell clawed back a two-hole overnight deficit to halve against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar.
McIlroy, who had struggled on Friday, was the hero for Europe, holing a magnificent long putt on the par-three 17th to level the match.
“I said to GMac going down 17 before we got to the green, let’s just try and make two here and try and win this match, and I was able to do that,” McIlroy said. “It was an unbelievable feeling.”
But there were no such heroics for Europe in the fourth match, where US rookies Bubba Watson and JeffOverton coasted to a three and two victory over Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.
Overton rattled in five birdies over the final 10 holes as the American duo became the first rookies to win an opening session since 1979.
After the first day’s play was ruined by torrential rain on Friday, players headed back onto the course at 8:00am (0700 GMT) in sunny but cold conditions.
Friday’s delay forced organisers to unveil an improvised schedule for the remainder of the weekend’s action.
A second session of six foursomes will be played Saturday. A third session of play will then comprise two foursomes and four fourballs, followed by the traditional 12 singles matches on Sunday, weather permitting.
However, officials have admitted the tournament is at the mercy of the weather, and with more rain forecast for Sunday, there is a possibility of the event finishing on Monday for the first time in history.